My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In order their save their world (big W), Zan and her wife, Jayd, need a metal arm and an object known as the world (small W). Only problem is, Zan has no memory, their plan has been tried several times previously and resulted in failure, and their dying world ain't the only one in the Legion, which provides plenty of spark for conflict.
Kameron Hurley's The Stars Are Legion is a thick piece of science fiction with a hefty dose of fantasy swirled in. I'm not typically big on the fantasy genre, so it's not much of a surprise that I was more drawn in by the sci-fi elements of space-based shenangians and inter-world politicking. The story is divvied up between the two central women, with chapters alternating their first-person narrations as the plot drives them apart. For me, the story began to drag once Zan was thrust into the underworld of her planet and the book took on plenty of fantasy-genre overtones, becoming a Lord of the Rings-styled walking tour through the world's various domains. More intriguing were Jayd's experiences with a brutal Lord on a rival planet. The Bhavaja Lord is even more manipulative than Jayd (certainly no slouch in manipulation her own self), and their dodge-and-parry dynamic is some of the more interesting elements in this book.
Zan, though, is certainly a cool character in her own regard. Her memory loss and slow recovery make for captivating reading, particularly as she begins to understand who she was and what she could become, thanks to her interactions with a motley crew of monster- and mutant-fighting bottomworlders who make up her quest party. Hurley gives her plenty of time to shine and does a great job formulating Zan as a character. Zan's arc, in fact, was a strong highlight of the book for me, and the finale packs an emotional wallop thanks to the strong character development of both Zan and Jayd.
The world-building, though, is where The Stars Are Legion really shines. Hurley takes the literary technique of world-building up a notch by making actual world building a strong element of the plot itself. We have dying organic world-ships, populated entirely by females -- in fact there's not a single man in existence; this is a space epic in which women rule entirely and completely, an awesome feat in its own right! -- who the world uses to birth whatever the world needs - spare parts, children, and even, yes, new worlds.
It's a wonderfully feminist view, written by a wonderful female author, with strong women galore at every inch of these worlds. The women here are life-bearers, engineers, warriors, and rulers, each of them carrying the responsibility of their society, and their world as a whole, on their backs and deep within themselves. They live, they fight, they die. And through it all, Hurley brings to table plenty of solid action, a nice bit of gore, and some intriguing Big Ideas.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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